A diagnosis of cancer in pets is increasingly common as our companion animals live longer due to a lifetime of excellent care. Although cancer can occur in pets of any age, there is an increasing risk of most cancers with age. Pet owners should be vigilant about looking for clinical signs that could be related to cancer, such as non-healing wounds, lumps or bumps on the skin or in the mouth, and lameness. It is the task of veterinarians to examine and investigate the underlying cause of such abnormalities. A diagnosis of cancer may come from a blood test, x-rays, or needle aspirates of lesions. Once a pet is diagnosed or suspected of having cancer, a veterinary oncologist is the health professional best trained to further stage and recommend treatments for your pet’s disease.
Typically, cancers may be treated with combinations of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and sometimes immunotherapy. In the past, radiation therapy was commonly used to treat cancers that were non-resectable by surgeons or for tumors that were incompletely removed at surgery. Although radiation is still used in this way today, the advent of many new technologies that we now have available at NC State now allows us to consider radiation therapy for cancers that were previously thought to be untreatable, such as large liver tumors or metastatic brain tumors.
We are fortunate to have cutting-edge technology available in the form of a Varian Novalis TX linear accelerator with a Protura six-degrees-of-freedom treatment couch. This allows us to deliver radiation treatments with extreme precision, which results in decreased normal tissue side effects and the ability to increase the radiation dose to the tumor, hopefully improving tumor control. We can deliver radiation via photons or electrons, using both traditional (electron beam and clinical photon radiation plans) and cutting-edge radiation treatment plans (stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT) and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT)).
- Interesting cases
- Clinical & benchtop research
- Ways to support Radiation Oncology
Cancer can affect any part of the body. This list of cancer types are those that are most commonly treated with radiation therapy. Click each title to learn more:
Does my pet have bladder or prostate cancer?
- Common symptoms include pain or abnormal posturing during urination, poor urine stream, and/or discolored or bloody urine.
- Diagnosis of bladder and prostate cancer can be challenging, and may involve a variety of tests, including X-rays, abdominal ultrasound, urinalysis, cytology, biopsy with histopathology, and sometimes even surgery.
- Almost all bladder tumors in dogs are a type of cancer called “transitional cell carcinoma” (TCC). These tumors grow from the lining of the bladder and/or urethra, and can spread throughout the lower urinary tract.
Does my pet have bone cancer (Osteosarcoma)?
- Osteosarcoma most commonly occurs on the limbs of large breed dogs. But it can occur in any breed, in any location of the body, and at any age.
- Common symptoms include pain, lameness (limping) and swelling.
- The diagnosis is often made with X-rays. Sometimes, blood testing, fine needle aspirates and/or biopsies will be used to help confirm the diagnosis, or rule-out diseases that cause similar symptoms.
What is the prognosis?
- Osteosarcoma is rarely curable. Even if the visible tumor can be effectively treated, this kind of cancer has a high probability of spreading to other parts of the body.
- Without treatment, bone cancer in dogs is rarely survive more than a month or two. Most dogs are euthanized due to intractable pain or limb fracture.
Does my pet have a brain tumor?
- Brain tumors commonly cause behavioral changes, gait abnormalities and/or seizures. Some types can cause facial muscles to shrink (trigeminal nerve sheath tumors), while others can cause hormonal imbalance (pituitary tumors).
- The diagnosis is often made with an MRI; other tests (CSF taps, biopsies and blood testing) may also be used.
What is the prognosis?
- Brain tumors are rarely curable. Without treatment, pets rarely survive more than a few months.
- In most cases, the best prognosis is associated with surgery, radiation therapy (RT), or a combination of both.
Does my pet have nasal cancer?
- Nasal cancer is a common cause of nasal discharge, bleeding, excessive sneezing, and several other symptoms in middle-aged to older dogs, and occasionally in cats.
- The diagnosis is often confirmed using a series of tests, including a CT scan (also called a CAT scan), rhinoscopy and biopsy.
What is the prognosis?
- Nasal tumors are rarely curable. Without treatment, pets rarely survive more than a couple of months.
Service features include:
- Two American College of Veterinary Radiology, Specialty of Radiation Oncology board-certified Radiation Oncologists
- State-of-the-art 3-dimensional treatment planning system (Varian Eclipse)
- Varian On-Board Imaging (OBI) device that allows daily imaging prior to radiation delivery for precise patient positioning
- In-house boarding for patients
- Varian Novalis TX Linear Accelerator with Stereotactic Radiation Therapy (SRT) and Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) capabilities
Hours: Monday-Friday, 7:30AM-4:30PM
Facility: The Terry Center
DVM Referral Form: Radiation Oncology Referral Form
The Radiation Oncology service is a referral-only service. Once the primary (referring) veterinarian calls and sets up the referral, the owner may call and arrange an appointment. If your veterinarian has confirmed the diagnosis of cancer in your pet, have he or she call our hospital and discuss your pet’s case with the Radiation Oncologist. In some tumor locations, especially for suspected brain tumors, a biopsy diagnosis is not required for consideration of radiation therapy.
At the time of your appointment, the radiation oncologists will discuss the additional tests that are recommended or required prior to radiation treatment, the options and expected outcomes for radiation therapy, and the costs and potential side effects associated with treatment.
Cost Estimates for Radiation Therapy
- Palliative radiation therapy (typically 1-6 treatments): $750-3000
- Half-body radiation therapy (for lymphoma): $1250 per half
- Definitive course of radiation therapy (if no CT scan required; typically 15-19 daily treatments): $4000-5000
- Course of radiation therapy delivered with intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) (typically 18-20 daily treatments): $6000-7500
- Course of stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT) (typically 1-3 treatments delivered over 1-5 weekdays): $5500-6500
Dr. Tracy Gieger
Dr. Gieger earned her DVM from Louisiana State University, and is board certified in THREE medical specialties: Internal Medicine, Medical Oncology and Radiation Oncology. She worked in a mix of both private specialty hospitals and university-based veterinary teaching hospitals before joining NC State last year. Aside from bringing a wealth of cancer-related expertise to our clinic, Dr. Gieger also has a variety of interests and hobbies outside of work, including reading, fashion and home decorating, crafting cocktails and cooking.
Dr. Mike Nolan
Dr. Nolan earned his DVM from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, is board-certified in Radiation Oncology, and has a Ph.D. in radiation and cancer biology from Colorado State University. When not in the clinic or classroom, Dr. Nolan runs a busy research program. Outside the office, he enjoys running, hiking, traveling and all things related to the water.
Dr. Don Roback
Dr. Roback has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Minnesota. He works full-time at a local human cancer clinic, and is a part-time consultant for NC State, serving as our medical physicist. He is responsible for the technical aspects of the radiation treatment equipment, and quality assurance testing. In his spare time, he shows his dogs in obedience and agility.
Radiation Oncology Residents
Dr. Leanne Magestro
Dr. Krista Kelsey
Dr. Kelsey earned her DVM from the University of Tennessee, then moved to Gainesville to complete an internship at the University of Florida. She joined us as our new resident in July 2014. She enjoys spending time with her husband, 2 cats and 2 dogs, and her hobbies include trail running, road biking, kayaking, tubing, charity runs and socializing.
Radiation Therapists & Clinical Technicians
Tammy is a registered veterinary technician; she earned her AAS in Veterinary Technology from the State University of New York, Delhi. She has been working for NC State Radiation Oncology for more than 10 years, and has been a vital link between the original Radiation Oncology program and our newly revamped program! She has 2 Pit Bulls, enjoy traveling and is a huge Gators fan…don’t worry too much though, as long as they’re not playing UF, Tammy quietly roots for the Pack too!
Colleen is a graduate of Cambridge Institute of Allied Health & Technology with a degree in Radiation Therapy. She is registered nationally with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists in radiation therapy. She just recently moved to the Triangle, and joined our service in September 2014. In her free time she enjoys traveling and all things outdoors!
Beth is a registered veterinary technician, who has been in the field for more than 20 years, and has been an anesthesia technician at NC State since 1998. Though she’s been working with us for much of the past year as a member of the Anesthesia Service, she officially joined the Radiation Oncology Service in August 2014. We are so excited to have her! Outside of work, Beth enjoys family time with her husband, daughter (who is just starting college), and 2 Pit Bull Terriers. They have a small menagerie of animals including a moderate flock of chickens, goats, a horse and 3 cats. She also enjoys cooking, art/photography, and canoeing. She loves the NC mountains, and spending long weekends in the Fall camping on the NC coast.
Janelle is a registered veterinary technician; she obtained her AAS in veterinary technology from St. Petersburg College in 2008. She started working at the vet school in 2010 in the anesthesia department, and recently started working with the radiation oncology group in 2014. Outside of work, Janelle enjoys time with her husband, whippet, and yellow-footed tortoise. Her hobbies include running, motorcycling, needlework, and playing music (bass clarinet, bass guitar, and baritone). Janelle and her husband love visiting family in the mountains of NC, but also try to get to the Outer Banks as much as possible!
Kristen Price is a registered veterinary technician; she obtained her AAS from Central Carolina Community College. When not caring for our patients, Kristen enjoys spending time with her family (including her husband, daughter and 2 dogs), hiking in the mountains, all things Disney, and music. In fact, Kristin is no amateur musician; she has a Bachelor’s of Music degree from Appalachian State University, and is treated trained on clarinet and violin. She currently plays in the string section of the Lee County Community Orchestra.
Karen is a part-time research technician who recently started working for me. She is originally from Louisiana, but has called the Triangle home for more than 10 years. She has extensive experience in performing animal studies and molecular biology, and is excited to join the team as we get our laboratory-based research program off the ground.
Client Care Coordinators
Leslie Young graduated from the University of Mount Olive with a B.S. in Health Care Management in December 2012. She previously worked as a Certified Pharmacy Technician for 3 years. Hobbies include spending time with friends and family, going to church, playing with her dogs and goats, keeping up with her favorite TV shows, and cooking new recipes.
Pamela has over 21 years of experience in client relations and medical reception services, and has worked at the College of Veterinary Medicine for the past 14 years. She takes pride in providing excellent customer service. Pam loves animals, and has a very cute and precious kitty. Her name is Kit, who was rescued here at the vet school when she was 2 weeks old. Pam also loves spending time with family, traveling, helping others and volunteering at church.
We interact on a daily basis with other services in the hospital, including medical oncology, surgery, neurology, internal medicine, diagnostic imaging and anesthesiology. Learn more about our team by reading our newsletter: Radiating Hope.
The Radiation Oncology Section at NC State strives to
- Provide clients and patients with the most thoughtful and thorough care possible by facilitating a multi-disciplinary approach to cancer management, and by offering treatments that maximize accessibility, effectiveness and efficiency.
- Advance knowledge by serving as an educational resource for basic and cutting-edge therapeutic interventions in veterinary radiation oncology.
- Develop and maintain an international reputation as leaders in veterinary and comparative radiation oncology, by discovering ways to improve the safety and efficacy of treatments for a variety of cancers and chronic inflammatory diseases.
Contributions to this fund support students, staff, and residents within the Radiation Oncology group. These resources are vital to research, training, education and outreach. Your gift helps us fulfill our mission. For detailed information on how to support our Radiation Oncology service, read our newsletter: Radiating Hope or contact Allison Crouch, Interim Executive Director at 919-513-6427 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.